Sophie given a right Royal welcome in resort

HRH Countess of Wessex, patron of NSPCC, visits staff, parents and children at Grange Park Children's Centre, Blackpool, to see the work done by Better Start.
HRH Countess of Wessex, patron of NSPCC, visits staff, parents and children at Grange Park Children's Centre, Blackpool, to see the work done by Better Start.
0
Have your say

The Countess of Wessex has a new hanging basket for her garden after meeting youngsters in Blackpool.

Little Roxanne Lang offered the impromptu gift to Her Royal Highness during a visit to Grange Park Children’s Centre yesterday.

HRH Countess of Wessex, patron of NSPCC, visits staff, parents and children at Grange Park Children's Centre, Blackpool, to see the work done by Better Start.

HRH Countess of Wessex, patron of NSPCC, visits staff, parents and children at Grange Park Children's Centre, Blackpool, to see the work done by Better Start.

The Countess, who is patron of the NSPCC, was in the resort to see the work being done by Blackpool Better Start to help families with pre-school children.

She was given a tour of the centre and play area, chatted to parents and heard about the support available to ensure children get a better start in life.

Roxanne, three, was with her dad Graham, who is also a member of the parent forum at the centre.

They were learning gardening skills from Vince McNulty, of Clean Up Blackpool.

HRH Countess of Wessex, patron of NSPCC, visits staff, parents and children at Grange Park Children's Centre, Blackpool, to see the work done by Better Start.

HRH Countess of Wessex, patron of NSPCC, visits staff, parents and children at Grange Park Children's Centre, Blackpool, to see the work done by Better Start.

Graham, of Grange Park, said: “We were making the hanging basket as the Countess came over and Roxanne just asked if she could give it to her.

“It’s lovely that she took it and she was really interested in what all the children were doing.”

Among other parents the Countess met were Sean and Katy Thompson, and their eight-week-old son Jethro, who live in Claremont.

Sean said: “The Countess was asking us about Jethro, and about the programmes we are involved with at the centre, and what we have got out of it.

“Better Start has been invaluable to us and made us better parents.”

Katy added: “It has helped me get a lot more confidence and we’ve both got a lot of support and made a lot of new friends. I didn’t know a lot of people in Blackpool until Better Start.

“Jethro is our second child, and with Sean working full-time, and also due to the fact I am partially sighted, it has meant a lot to get this kind of support.”

Also chatting with the countess were mums Carly Scott from Blackpool, with 11-month-old Sienna, and Kerry Woodman, from Grange Park with Alexia, who is nearly one.

Carly said: “The Countess was asking us about the Baby Steps programme, which is an ante-natal programme.

“Kerry and I met when we both joined it, and became friends.

“We also use a lot of the facilities at the children’s centre and go to lots of activities.

“It was lovely to meet the Countess.

“She was very down to earth, and it was funny at one point when Sienna started playing with her hand-bag!”

The 10-year Better Start scheme is led by the NSPCC, in partnership with Blackpool Council, the NHS and the community.

It is focused on improving outcomes for children from birth to aged three, concentrating on the seven most deprived wards in the town - Bloomfield, Brunswick, Claremont, Clifton, Park, Talbot and Victoria.

Linked children’s centres are Claremont, Grange Park, Mereside, Revoe, St Cuthbert’s, Talbot and Brunswick, and Thames.

The scheme is funded through a £45m Lottery grant awarded in 2014, plus £30m of ring-fenced public funds.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, was also among guests attending the Royal visit. He said: “The Countess of Wessex is our patron and our president and we were really keen to show her the work in Blackpool because it is so pioneering.

“By organising services around the particular needs of children and families, there is something really special here. It is not just special for Blackpool, but it is showing other towns and communities across the UK what’s possible when you put children at the front and centre of your services for children and families.

“Of the many things we could get the Countess to see across the UK, we felt this was one of the most important.”